Emerging Melbourne Rebels halfback Nic Stirzaker knows reputations aren’t made in December.
Stirzaker’s name has been thrown into the Wallabies conversation this pre-season but he’s not entertaining any green and gold fantasies just yet.
With Will Genia and Nic White overseas, the competition for the Wallabies number nine jersey is set to be intense in 2016.
Stirzaker said he’s not letting talk interfere with his focus, despite being tagged as a future Wallaby.
“I guess people speculate after a World Cup when things are changing,” he said.
“We just worry about what we're doing. Tony’s (head coach Tony McGahan) pretty good at keeping us grounded and we’re focusing on winning games next year.”
Stirzaker is in ways a microcosm of his team’s fortunes, an improving talent with high expectations set for next year, and his stance doesn’t shift much when talking about the teams’ future compared to his own.
“We came 10th last year and I guess every team thinks they’re going pretty well in December,” he said.
“We just want to keep improving all aspects of our game and see where we are next year.”
An extended break after this year’s Super Rugby season allowed Stirzaker to have a shoulder reconstruction and enter the 2016 pre-season fully fit, a move that he hopes pays dividends.
One thing Stirzaker does want to get rid of is the agonising losses the Rebels had last season, with five decided by single figure margins.
“That’s the nature of the competition - we had six or seven losses by that but a few wins by that margin as well,” he said.
“The nature of the competition is it’s so tight.
“Tony's been hammering through pre-season that we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”
Stirzaker has eked out a promising partnership with flyhalf jack Debreczeni and hopes the duo can continue to grow.
“Hopefully - I really enjoy playing with him,” he said.
“I just hope we can get on the park and get a few more wins for the Rebels.”
Stirzaker said the side would be taking nothing for granted as the countdown to 2016 continues.
“We want to keep working hard and just because we have improved doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again.
“We need to work hard to make it happen again.”
The Melbourne Rebels kick off their 2016 season against Force in Perth on February 27.